Review essay: Historiographic self-consciousness

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 37 (2):210-228 (2007)
Historians tend to present what they do in terms of prevailing epistemic values that have little to do with their actual practices. Practical knowledge of how does not generate necessarily abstract theoretical knowledge of what . Mark Bevir's The Logic of the History of Ideas attempts to integrate his normative philosophy of historiography with contemporary philosophy of language and epistemology, intentionalist theory of meaning, and coherentist epistemology, on a sophisticated and well-informed level. Yet it is written from the perspective of a particular school and set to normatively defend its research program and assumptions. Sewell's Logics of History is innocent of contemporary epistemology and the philosophies of science and the social sciences, and it shows, mostly in conceptual confusions. Katz's God's Last Words is completely innocent of philosophy, but is still excellent precisely because it makes no theoretical assumption and unreflectively carries on with making sense of the evidence. Key Words: philosophy of historiography • philosophy of history • intentionalism • understanding.
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